Taking care of good people who are also kind people, always ends up being profitable. “How many times have you heard me say this? Hundreds, perhaps? That is because I have been saying it for many years. I did not learn it as a strategy to make money; I came up with it simply because it is what I read, the statistic I get from my own professional experience and the experience of my company.
(beware, content no suitable for those allergic to people saying good things about their company and their co-workers, which may end up sounding like self-advertising; keep away from the reach of envious people, and call detox services if you have read two posts of this kind today; in case of overdose use eye drops or visit a blog where they trash, for example, bosses that pretend to be cool but are in fact, bastards)
Ever since I started to build my own company and my own team, I looked for smart, sharp people, people who were better than me, from whom I could learn and improve the many different directions in which the company had to grow… But in addition to being good professionals, it was essential for me from the beginning that they were good persons as well. I had to bring aboard people I would be willing to work with daily because we spend many hours with our co-workers, and if you are lucky enough to be able to choose your team, make it people with whom you want to share a lot of time. On top of that, I tend to be trusting by nature, (a bit too much according to some), so for me, it is better to be surrounded by people with whom you don’t need to be defensive.
I didn’t look for those who were theoretically the most profitable for each particular project, nor for the most docile or polite, and I didn’t want suck-ups… I wanted non-conformists but positive people who want to do things the right way, better and better all the time, those who do not get tired of learning and who ask and look at things from different perspective, people who think outside the box. I even have a soft spot for the grumpy and antsy-pants. In small doses, and mixed into the right team these types complement and enrich the whole with their critical or innovative personalities.
And I always placed my bets on them; I let them do, I trusted them and did my best to be trustworthy for them, I vouched for them whenever I had to. I even had to make some hard decisions when a client forced me to choose. And I always opted for my people. I lost some opportunities or projects my people did not believe in, and I also gained others thanks to their commitment and responsibility, to their creativity and intelligence, thanks to the solidarity of my team.
Today, I am very proud of my team. Most of them, I like to think, feel the company is a little bit theirs because in fact, whether they believe me or not when I tell them, the company goes where they want it to go. They make me diversify because that is what the team wants: people push us, and that is how we get to do different things. Some employees leave us only to return as clients; others leave, learn from other cultures and then return to us (about 5 or 6 almost every year); others tell us about their personal entrepreneurship projects, and we end up being partners in their adventure; others convince us to open offices in cities we would have never considered had they not dragged us along with them (several times after their significant others… a boyfriend or girlfriend who found the work of his or her life in a distant part of the world… and there we went).
But as it turns out, this risky formula of putting employees first has resulted in a company that has a good team, a team with initiative and commitment. And nowadays, that is precisely the scarce commodity that everyone needs: “good professionals with initiative and determination.” That’s what our customers are looking for to add to their technology and innovation projects… And this has led me to have satisfied, returning customers, who give us the opportunity to walk with them in ever more ambitious, more strategic, and also more exciting challenges. And although our ISO9001 consultants still find it hard to understand when we explain this, it turns out that quality, understood as the satisfaction of our customers, is no longer our strategic objective, but a consequence of our way of treating our team. Because, and I can’t stress this enough, we did not start by treating people well as a means to this premeditated purpose, but because we believed it was the best way to build the company we wanted, a business where we would want to for a long time.
And finally, these satisfied and loyal enough customers have pushed our company to take on new challenges, in new countries, and make our company more and more profitable every day.
I am lucky to have this company in the 21st century, where capital is not a scarce good, and small companies can undertake big projects if they have the right people. Perhaps in the 19th century, capital was the most important thing to have, an asset just like machinery or the large factory needed to manufacture a product that, once produced at a competitive price, would always have a market, and where people were a necessary evil to operate the factory or the machinery (in fact we still talk about human resources because people were resources at the service of production). I suppose that if anyone had tried to set up a company based on a philosophy similar to mine in those times, they would have lasted very little and we would never know about them.
But today the scarce good is talent (this is, in fact, a truism since we often forget that the very meaning of “talent” is, by definition, a scarce commodity)… It is human talent, creativity, innovation, empathy with customers… that defines and builds the products and services that in turn generate demand. It is technology and innovation skills, rather than the offer of a particular product, manufactured in any old way that enables the demand. So, having built a company where I wanted to work, I have found by serendipity a way to bring together something scarce and therefore valuable.
For a couple of years now, we have given this strategy a name in my company, we have a Chief Happiness Officer, something many find funny because it seems a way to get attention or a headline. Some think that this position is filled by someone who is dedicated to softening the office with jokes or foosball games … But for us, the CHO is increasingly a fundamental and central role in the company as it is the summary of our entire strategy and has three “simple” goals:
- make our employees happy (not only through a good atmosphere, camaraderie, and other obvious things about happy people working more at ease and therefore being more productive and having fewer sick leaves… that too, of course… but I am more concerned about putting employees/partners/colleagues at the center of every business decision, so they feel they are progressing and have a fulfilling professional career, with guidance, training, and challenges nor too large or too small, always taking into account their interests and circumstances when we are offering them the next professional step.
- make our clients happy (understanding them, helping them in their projects, their fears, their goals, sometimes surpassing their expectations, at times trying to make them change their minds, but always taking into account their interests or objectives and trying not to hinder them with ours.
- to make our shareholders happy (which, today, are all also employees of the company), with an approach to business that guarantees sustainability (in our case based on our capacity for innovation and diversification) and maintains a good rate of growth and profitability.
And of course, we must treat these three groups of human beings, with honesty, respect, and transparency… If we want our relationship with them to be lasting (and I am beginning to sound like a priest with all this advice on how to treat others) I believe some essential ingredients are necessary to build trust; otherwise, relationships wither.
I guess there are some brainy theories about companies being like any other living organism, and having their own Maslow pyramid, including a business version of security, self-realization, and some ultimate pursuit of corporate happiness… (I am sure that this business happiness theory has already been invented) But what I think may be innovative, what many tell me is very risky, (though it works for me), is that the priorities I have mentioned of making 1) 2) and 3) happy when making day-to-day decisions in the company, are prioritized precisely 1) 2) 3) and not 3) 2) 1) as undoubtedly some profitable companies in past centuries will continue to work today.
Attention!! Disclaimer: do not try to do this in your companies if you do not see it clearly. Beware of applying recipes of any kind, given by anyone who says it works, especially if they come from a LinkedIn management gurus who has nothing at stake because they do not test their theories in their own company (those are the worst). Each company is different; each sector works in a particular way, we all do things in a different way. All I am saying is that, in my sector, with my people and my clients, with my particular things, this works for me in particular, and has worked so far (for 20 years now).
Oh, well! Here is another post without links, tags, photos, or bold, repeated keywords … Crap! Tomorrow some SEO knowledgeable person in the company will scold me, and I will have to admit they are right.